Three children reading a book

Our research gives children a voice in government policy and practice

What’s important to children about their communities and what do they want in their lives? To find out, UniSA researchers have asked children directly, and their responses are influencing state policies, community planning, children’s literacy, and the provision of educational resources both in Australia and overseas.

The idea began at the de Lissa Early Childhood and Family Studies Research Group, which is supported by UniSA and chaired by Professor Pauline Harris. A crucial element of its mission is to ensure that children’s voices inform government policy and practice, as mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UniSA research has shaped the approach taken by policy makers, educators and communities to empower children to be active contributors to decision-making.

That’s how they came up with the Children’s Voices Research Project (CVRP), where researchers talk with children about their lives and needs, collect their responses and encourage them to become involved in decisions that affect them.

For example, when funding for a play space was threatened, Campbelltown City Council in Adelaide adopted the CVRP approach and consulted directly with the children who used it. As a result, the children then felt empowered to organise their own petition, construct a reasoned argument, and win an appeal to not only to keep the play space, but also improve it. Next, they met regularly with the landscape architect, advised on design, successfully argued against removing a tree, and monitored the progress.

Meanwhile in Fiji, the same communication and engagement activities were used for the Fiji Preschool Literacy Voices Project, a formal partnership between UniSA, the Fijian Ministry of Education and the National Council of Women Fiji. The Ministry has since adopted the same approach to develop education resources for about 40,000 preschool children.

All of this suggests that if you want to talk about issues affecting children, who better to talk to than children themselves?